Good ideas with bad execution, or good execution of what should be bad ideas - an analysis of inferior, off-beat or malfunctioning products, and how other people's failures can help us design better stuff.

# Needless Math: That “Handy” Half Gallon Measure!

Engineers are great with calculations, but needless math can be really irritating.

Take Jon Titus’ experience with this bottle of fuel stabilizer and the instructions for mixing it with gas:

“Before I fueled my new snow blower I mixed some “fuel stabilizer” with the 2 gallons of gas I got at the local market.  The fuel-stabilizer instructions explain that one ounce of stabilizer will preserve 2.5 gallons of gas.  So, I had to do the math and came up with 0.8 ounces of stabilizer.  The plastic bottle of stabilizer has embossed volumes marked in one-ounce (left side of bottle) and 50-milliliter (right side of bottle) increments.  So I dumped out about one ounce and figured that would do.  Because people buy gasoline in gallon quantities here in the US, why wouldn’t the company mark its bottles in units of “gallons”, so you add stabilizer right out of the bottle for the number of gallons of gas you have?  Why force people to go through the gallons-of-gas to ounces-of-stabilizer step?  Beats me.”

I call this kind of inside-out–thinking the ”Center of the Universe” syndrome.

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1. January 12, 2011 14:46

2. lawrence
January 12, 2011 11:25

What is “fuel stabilizer” anyway. Can’t you just buy stable petrol in the first place? Unstable petrol sounds a bit scary.

3. Paul Harding
January 16, 2009 18:36

More realistically, the bottles are an off the shelf item, made for many purposes. It’s no great conspiracy, just the company trying to save some money…

4. Jon Titus
January 16, 2009 16:05

Maybe the gasoline-stabilizer manufacturer should include a conversion chart for hogsheads, firkins, gils, shots, “fifths,” barrels (UK & US), gallons (UK & US), cups, drams and minims. That should cover almost every volume measurement. Frankly, I like metric measurements, but our local station insists on selling gasoline in US gallons and my gas can has graduations marked in US gallons, too. Our neighbors in Canada converted to the metric system some time ago and IMHO, the US should, too.
I think the “center of the universe” comment related to the gas-stabilizer company. –Jon Titus

5. themagni
January 14, 2009 17:20

Getting custom markings would cost more than generic stock markings.

6. David Hurst
January 14, 2009 12:07

Yes but was it an Imperial Gallon(4.54609 litres) a US liquid gallon (3.785411784 litres)or US dry gallon (4.40488377086 litres)?
And as for ounces , well thats a whole other ball game
I don’t like litres, gramms etc myself , but at least theres no ambiguity

7. John Goldsmith
January 14, 2009 12:00

As Jon Titus lives in the centre of his universe he has not realised the other problem with this measurement – not all the world uses the same size gallon, so the bottle needs two imperial scales. Just stick to metric units!